Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

I'm currently reading Bonk by Mary Roach. It's the history of modern sex research, by the author of the wonderful bestseller about death, Stiff. The main thing I'm getting from her new book is that you get a lot of crap for trying to study human sexuality. (Don't take that literally.) Most people suspect you're a pervert, at best.

Lucy Bland is a sexologist, and she has written and edited some fascinating works dealing with the historical documentation of 19th century sex researchers. These were doctors who first studied forms of sexuality considered aberrant and unusual for the time, but accepted as commonplace now.

Lucy Bland is also a band, fronted by Cat Biell, who sings and plays acoustic guitar, though a big part of the band's sound is Todd Wallar's "electronica." The marriage of Biell's mellifluous voice with the playful atmosphere of Wallar's programming creates a beautiful soundtrack to Lucy Bland's themes of sensuality in relationships, whether it be swimming lightly through social waves or complete submersion into the lives of others.

Though the most obvious strengths are Biell's alternately opaque and revealing lyrics, sung in a relaxed, pleasuring style, and the synthetic flow from Wallar's sonic oscillations and occasional electric guitar, this album also features some deliciously restrained strings from Kate Mosehauer (violin) and Anil Seth (cello), as well as accordion and keyboards and trombone from Tim Stedman. Also along are Katherine Wasberg on bassoon and Andrea Smarmdom on clarinet. Each instrument everyone plays sounds effortlessly appealing within the sound of the songs, but that doesn't mean it is ever boring.

As I blogged originally about this album, this is shiny stuff, and usually music considered in the amorphous genre "lo-fi" is rarely this universally fetching. If like me you wished that Magnetic Fields songs were much more cleanly and better produced, or that some of your favorite basement-techno bands didn't try so hard to sing with that certain carelessness, then Lucy Bland will be very attractive to you. It's the little kisses that seem so sweet: Seth's delicate cello on "Fly Away," the pendant way the stories unravel, the image of "Blueprint" where the narrator "floats around you like pollen." This is a progressive link between the folk-pop minimalism of Suzanne Vega and the poetic archness of Björk, with a sound wholly Lucy Bland's own.

"Valor" may seem a little out of place texturally, but it would be my first pick for a single, and yet it's the depths of the album that you want to plummet into, where Biell sings you down like a reassuring siren, if that makes any mythical sense at all.